In a quirky experiment this month, New Silk Road Network requested Marcel Grätz from Alexander Global Logistics (AGL) to document his move to China to head their new office. Marcel Grätz will be running the local office of AGL in Shanghai while living and working in China. In his blog, he shared informative, funny, interesting, frustrating and at times, mind-boggling experiences. As a German forwarder, these are his chronicles to the wondrous East!
Here are some excerpts from his blog…
Week 1: The Arrival
Thanks to corona precautions, no headphones were given to watch the flights in-house entertainment. My own headphones were incompatible, so I decided to listen to some music on my phone, only to realise that I had none downloaded! At that moment, it struck how long my journey was going to be. The flights were sanitised, the masks were fastened, and we took off from Frankfurt. 12 hours later, I was at Shanghai airport.
After a 12-hour flight, dozens of forms filled, and another RT-PCR test, I was given the allotted hotel where I arrived, escorted by health officials. A few more forms were filled, and I was safely tucked into my quarantine room. I had 14 days of quarantine to pass in a room with a window, a bed, a television, a chair, and a functional toilet. These allotments were random, and some had it worse; some had better (but they paid more). I judged my luck to be average.
A routine was established in a couple of days of two temperature checks and breakfast-lunch-dinner. I preferred to have hotel breakfast and the rest of the meals I ordered from restaurants nearby. Thankfully, my hotel allowed that. In the mornings, work kept me busy, but evenings were a bit dull. I couldn’t really watch too much Chinese TV, so I mostly played some games on my phone.
Week 2: Presevering
It gets difficult to sleep if one is not able to move around too much. The only thing I could do was some exercise to get tired. The breakfast is the same every day, and now it seems a bit mundane. This week was a lot more troubling. My air conditioning broke, and it was heating the room to 28 degrees Celsius. I was sweating a lot, but I think over time, my body conditioned me to it. I tried asking the hotel for assistance, I turned it off (it restarts by itself!), but nothing fixed it. When they came to check my temperature, my forehead recorded 37.7 degrees Celsius. The hotel authorities checked a few more times, and after a while, it showed normal temperature. But they would not risk it. They made blood tests and moved me to a room that could be comparable to a prison cell. There was no toilet paper, no towels, no curtains on the window and toothpicks on the floor! They gave me a blue coloured security suit to use as a curtain. The bed looked like a wooden skit, and it was a very uncomfortable night spent there.
The next day, there were more tests, including taking temperature, but all recorded normal again. I was supposed to spend three days there. But luckily, they released me the next day in the evening (thanks to some lovely friends). I understood now how China has managed to handle the coronavirus situation so well; it is because they are very strict in handling even the slightest discrepancy. This week was difficult, but the 14 days of quarantine are almost over now.
Week 3: Roaming Free
Now that quarantine is over, I have moved out of the hotel. But I’ve landed at another hotel because I don’t have an apartment yet. At least this time it was a hotel I booked myself and I started in the office and visiting potential customers. My office is on the 29th floor, so I get a good view. My evenings are usually spent either apartment hunting, getting paperwork in order, and when time allows catching up with friends. Life seems to have returned to normal in China. Malls, shops, restaurants all are open. Precautions are maintained, such as masks on public transports and in malls, but otherwise, all routine.
I also had to visit the hospital for a complete health check-up to gain my job visa and residence permit. That will help during the apartment search. I usually get a snack while going out or order something back at the hotel after work. All these apartments have different requirements; one even asked for a deposit and an advance of the first two months of rent, which was way over budget! I have already learnt the lesson to not rush with apartments. For now, the priority is to finish all the necessary obligations and set up the office and find an apartment.
All in all, I hope that my stay is filled with exciting new adventures and growth for Alexander Global Logistics’ operations here.
Finally, here are a few things to remember if you are travelling to China during the pandemic, or in general:
1. Download and register for WeChat, it is essential!
2. Try to get a Chinese SIM Card as soon as possible.
3. Establish a bank account and link it your phone number, or even better WeChat pay.
4. Carry Euros, they fare well over USD.
5. If arriving in winters, bring lots of warm clothes. This applies to cities like Shanghai, or even those in the south like Guangzhou. The winters are cold and moist and central heating is not available south of the Yangtze River.
6. Be well prepared for the rainy season too.
7. Pre-download entertainment (movies, tv series, audiobooks, podcasts etc.) that will keep you entertained during the quarantine.
Marcel Grätz can be reached at:
Alexander Global Logistics
29F Gopher Center
757 Mengzi Road
200023 Huangpu, Shanghai
Tel No: +86 2138585238
Click here to visit their website: